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Behzti - has it failed in it's objectives?


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I have, alike others, been following the media coverage of the Behzti issue. What seems clear is that there has been a clash of ideologies here. A liberal democracy that more than allows the freedom to offend, against those who hold at least a ideological theocracy with Guru Granth Sahib as the deh of the Guru, some of whom are also vainly image conscious and paranoid in a post-9/11 society.

To my mind the play has become a means of exploring the issue of the role of sacredness in liberal society; the position sacredness should hold.

The issues are seperate - in listening to that bloke from the South Birmingham Gurdwara whittering on TV on tuesday about the effect it will have on images of Sikhs in the UK it occured to me that some were upset because of the image it gave Sikhs in the larger society's eyes, which hints at a community still lacking confidence and trying to pander to the larger community

Others were upset because of the assumed breach of sanctity of the Gurdwara (something which has occured in Punjab might I add)

Others were reacting to this issue of freedom to offend others, including religions.

BUT what seemed to be the point of the play was to pose an informed critique of the chauvanism inherent in Punjabi Sikh attitudes to women. In some senses the Gurdwara is a symbol of this, that at the highest level women and men are segregated into a spiritual hierarchy - gyanis, kirtani, politics, donations, vs. langar and cleaning. The play actually shows the protagonist surviving all that occurs to her (rape, abuse, sexism) due to her firm faith in Guru and God.

NOW, I feel this play has been hijacked (and will for ever be) as a vehicle for this issue of the right to offend. In actual fact I feel this is a diservice to the play which, perhaps with some heightened awareness of sensitivities, could have been a force for some real constructive dialogue in the community. Attitudes to women, to single-mothers, to role of women are still unaddressed. Seemingly the way out for women is emasculation rather than whole-heartedly fighting for their femininity to be accepted and given equal respect.

What do others think?

REMEMBER this isn't meant to be a debate about the nature of the play itself, but of the issues it raises.

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"Seemingly the way out for women is emasculation rather than whole-heartedly fighting for their femininity to be accepted and given equal respect."


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It is not about the play being hijacked , it is about respecting others beliefs. The whole point was to get the theme of the play changed ie. not to use sikh symbols / SGGS ji to set the play in a different environment

If you believe that the play had some issues and society needed to be made aware of them , them why not go round the country inviting members of all societies to discuss the issues , without a doubt if injustices have / were done , sikhs and many other people from different backgrounds would be there in force.

Why make a play about sex/rape/ abuse ?

realistically , if you go and watch a play like this , at the end you probabaly feel a bit bad and after a day or so, back to normal .

Why not act upon these issues , by speaking to relevant parties who can help society regarding theses issues , why make a play and money ?

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True say,

but playing devils advocate a little - shouldn't literature, art, theatre challenge people, shouldn't it reflect things going on? Isn't this the aim of political theatre, of posing critique, raising issues in the minds of those who watch it? Rather than going around petitioning people, why not expose people to the issues by simply building them into a story?

Why show sex, rape...because these are the extreme expressions of male attempts to dominate over women both psychologically and physically...why in front of SGGS and using symbols, because symbolically a religious Sikh who commits such acts does such a thing anyway. I can think of that incident recently of sevadars in punjabi drugging and raping a women, keeping her locked up in the gurdwara compounds.

The (rather vain) assumption that other non-sikh people will leave thinking this is what all amritdhari Sikhs are like is really a bit lacking. Anyone with half a brain will realise that it is about sexism and how they may even use religion as a way oppressing women. Again I can't say for definite because I haven't seen it, but then nor have hardly any of those protesting I'd imagine.

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Maybe so, but is that cause enough to physically stop a play and send a person death threats?

I am continually perplexed at why those same Sikhs who are so image conscious as to cause a fuss in the first place, haven't actively and straneously denounced those death threats, for such things really play into the hands of a notoriously biased and xenophobic media (such as the beloved Daily Mail). A truely saddening own goal for our own image as a minority community. And I have to say, I've never laughed so much when naive types were suprised and horrified that (shock horror) there is media bias in the UK...where have you been for the last 10 years?! lol.

Anyway, this wasn't the intention of my post. I was hoping for some constructive dialogue on whether or not the play has failed in it's intentions.

To my mind art is as valid as any other tool for provoking, critiquing and challenging. On the other hand, sacredness/sanctity is important to me. I feel once conceptual sacredness has been breached it is hard to return it to it's former glory.

Should art challenge sacredness? On what grounds and how? Should a critique be 'balanced' as 'anothersingh' stated?

One suggestion from the Desi DNA discussion on this was that she should have never consulted with the Sikh community in the first place, as this gives credence to others interferring.

Let's try and keep this cerebral...try to keep the discussion on the issues raised above.


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the death threats have been condemned publicly many times but the media is less prone to carry these statements. i only saw it on one BBC News page. there are a lot more carrying the story of death threats by 'the sikh community'.

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Oh yes, we are talking about Ms. Bhatti, are we? Yes, her first play is about these nice young desi kids that just happen to entertain themselves with drugs and prostitution. Now she has a play about sexual abuse in a gurdwara. She has quite an intimate knowledge of subculture, doesn't she?? Particularly with how it relates to illicit sex.

I have bad news for you Ms. Bhatti. The archdiocese of Boston did it first. In real life. Sorry my dear....been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. And oh, by the way? Sex abuse is still NOT FUNNY.

So...I think freedom of speech means that a writer with a penchant for tales of scandalous sex can make a "comedy" about sex abuse in a house of God.

I ALSO think that freedom of speech means that those of us that don't like it are free to get in her face and tell her explicitly WHY we don't like it.

Over and over again.

I'd like to express my freedom of speech and call Ms. Bhatti a media whore.

Bol Chuk Maaf, please.

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